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Colonel Alexander N. Stark

Surgeon, First Army, A. E. F.

An inquiry for biographical information concerning this distinguished officer revealed that nowhere is there in print any reasonably adequate account of his career. He was of that company of modest souls who regard the facts of their lives as of too small general interest to warrant their publication.

Alexander Newton Stark was born at 26 Granby Street in Norfolk, Virginia, on September 15, 1869. His father, Alexander Wilson Stark, a former Confederate soldier, was president of the Norfolk Gas Light Company. His mother, Margaret (Newton) Stark, was the sister of Major General John Newton, who rendered distinguished service in the Union Army in the Civil War. Both parents were of old Norfolk families.

Young Alexander attended the Gatewood School for Boys in Norfolk and the Hanover Academy in Hanover County, Virginia, and then entered the medical school of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, where he graduated in 1892. After postgraduate study in New York he applied for permission to take the examination for the medical service of the Army and was commissioned an assistant surgeon on May 12, 1893. Reporting at Fort Monroe, he was sent to Fort Clark, Texas, and soon thereafter to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where he spent four of his formative years. In November 1897 he was transferred to Washington Barracks in Washington, where the outbreak of the Spanish-American War found him. In July 1898 he was ordered to Montauk Point, N. Y., and assigned to the hospital ship Missouri. In November he was transferred to the command of the hospital ship Bay State and in April 1899 to the Terry. On all of these boats he was engaged in the transfer of patients in West Indian waters. In November 1899 he was assigned to Military Hospital No. 1 at Havana and later to Camp Columbia.

Then followed duty at Fort McHenry, Maryland (1901-02), at the United States Military Academy at West Point (1902-04), and as assistant to the attending surgeon in Washington. Sent to duty with the Panama Canal Commission in the summer of 1904, he was assigned as Health Officer at Colon, but illness shortly required his return to the States. in February 1905 he sailed for the Philippines, where, after a short service at Camp Stotsenberg, he took over the surgical service at the Department Hospital in Manila. He was back in the United States in 1907, serving three years at Vancouver Barracks and one at Fort Adams, R. I. In August 1911 he went back to Manila and again to Camp Stotsenberg, where he was serving when, in January 1912, he was ordered to accompany a body of troops to Tientsin, China. The following is an excerpt from an inspection report submitted at the time of his relief from the China detail:

“Through the efforts of Lieut. Col. A. N. Stark, M.C., a building is now occupied as a hospital which is a great credit to the United States. No other nation has one to compare with it * * *. The high reputation of Colonel Stark as a consulting surgeon causes his early departure from China to be much regretted by members of foreign concessions as well as by our own troops.”

Upon Colonel Stark’s return in 1914 he was assigned to Fort Logan, Colorado, and after a few months to Fort Monroe, Virginia. Incident to the Mexican border troubles of 1916 he was assigned to the post of surgeon of the El Paso district. With our entrance into the World War he was ordered to Charleston, S. C., as surgeon of the Southeastern Department where he served until December 1917. He was then ordered to Hoboken where he sailed for France. There he was assigned to duty as surgeon of the Advanced Section, Service of Supply. With the formation of the American First Army, in the summer of 1918, he was named surgeon of that Army. First in the Chateau-Thierry section, the First Army later fought the St. Mihiel campaign, and then in the Meuse-Argonne drive. Colonel Stark had a herculean task in the evacuation, hospitalization of the casual- ties of these operations, and in the supply of the medical units. His work in this post well earned for him the Distinguished Service Medal, with the following citation:

“He served as Chief Surgeon of the 1st Army during all of its offensives, charged with the organization of the medical service, involving the treatment and evacuation of many thou- sands of sick and wounded under most adverse conditions. In this important capacity he performed his duties with marked ability. With good judgment, furthered by high professional attainments and tireless energy, he solved the difficult problems which arose, prevented much suffering and saved the lives of many among the American and French wounded soldiers.”

Following the Armistice in November 1918, Colonel Stark was relieved from the First Army and soon thereafter was re- turned to the United States. His postwar service was largely at Baltimore and San Antonio as Surgeon of the Third and Eighth Corps Areas. In the summer of 1925 he applied for retirement after 30 years of service. He had outside business responsibilities that required much attention. Known to be in impaired health he was ordered before a retiring board and retired for physical disability on August 26, 1925. He took up a residence in Hollywood, California, where he died of angina pectoris on May 8, 1926.

Colonel Stark’s outstanding service with the First Army was recognized by the French government which conferred upon him the decoration of the Legion of Honour and the Medaille des Epidemies. He was given the Italian order of St. Maurice and St. Lazarus. He wore the medals of the Spanish-American War and the Mexican Border Service. He was a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and one of the first army members of the Association of Military Surgeons.

Personally Colonel Stark was a man of handsome face and figure. He was notably kind and considerate of the junior officers who served with him. Gifted with an uncommon command of language, he was an excellent extemporaneous speaker, the most interesting of conversationalists, and a rare raconteur. The writer of this memorial saw something of him during the trying days of the Meuse-Argonne campaign. Though harassed by persistent illness and in dread of what might happen to his two sons who were Infantry company officers at the front, he suffered no change in his good judgment nor in disposition. It is a lasting matter for wonder that this efficient holder of such a high office should not have been rewarded with promotion to the grade of general officer.

While Colonel Stark’s later service marked him as an administrator, he was one of the conspicuous clinicians and surgeons of the Corps of his time. The early years of his service were marked by enthusiasm for professional work and by a devoted appreciation from his patients. He could have been a successful practitioner in any field.

He was married in January 1895 to Mary Stone of Charlottesville, Va., daughter of a professor in the University of Virginia. Mrs. Stark is now a resident of Washington. Their two sons, Alexander Newton, Jr., and Thomas Newton, are officers of the Infantry arm of the Army.

The athletic field at Carlisle Barracks, which was the scene of the prowess of the Carlisle Indian School teams in the past, has been named Stark Field and the new general hospital at Charleston, S. C., has likewise been named in his honor [see below].

James M. Phalen,

Colonel, U. S. Army, Retired.

Stark General Hospital


On 11 February 1941, the War Department authorized the naming of the Fourth Corps Area’s (later Fourth Service Command’s) new cantonment hospital at Charleston, South Carolina, in honor of Colonel Alexander N. Stark. The 2,400-bed Stark General Hospital was ready for its first patients on 18 May 1941 and specialized in general and orthopedic surgery. During the war, the hospital increasingly became the receiving hospital for casualties and sick personnel arriving at the Port of Charleston and in essence became a fully-functional debarkation hospital which limited the number of general hospital beds in service. Stark General Hospital transferred its last patients on 23 October 1945 and was turned over to the Charleston County Board of Control for local use.

Source: Charles McK. Smith, The Medical Department: Hospitalization and Evacuation, Zone of Interior (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1989): 19, 28, 113, 191, 31, 343; “The Named General Hospitals,” The Army Medical Bulletin, Number 66 (April 1943): 257-58.